'Dancing With the Stars': How did NeNe Leakes do?

NeNe Leakes can dance!

The "Real Housewives of Atlanta" cast member is a contender for the mirror-ball trophy on ABC's 18th season of  "Dancing With the Stars."

She opened the show Monday night with a spirited cha cha cha that resulted in a solid 21 out of 30.

"I want to make Tony proud," NeNe said, of her partner Tony Dovolani. (I spoke with Tony last week about NeNe's chances here.)

"That's the way to get the party started," said judge Len Goodman. He suggested more foot pressure to increase hip action but said it was "a great start. Well done!"

Bruno Tonioloi: "I feel you have so much to give. We're just scratching the surface." He also suggested tighter footwork.

Carrie Ann Inaba: "You have this incredibly larger-than-life personality. It shows in your dancing.. You can dance bigger."

Each judge gave her a 7 out of 10. She tied with Drew Carey and Big Time Rush actor/singer James Maslow. She finished ahead of Billy Dee Williams (15), swimmer Diana Nyad (18) and former hockey player Sean Avery (20).

Olympic ice dancer Charlie White had the top score with 27, an impressive opening of 9's. If anybody has an advantage in this show, it's White and his Olympic partner Meryl Davis (24). They will be major competition for NeNe, as she noted on the program.

The first dancer will be eliminated next Monday. My bet will be Avery because unless you're a hockey fan, he's a basic unknown and he came in near the bottom.

Ratings: The show opened with 15 million viewers, down from season 17 in the fall, which drew 16 million. The 18-49 rating was 2.5, down from 3.1.